Is Fairytale of New York Offensive?

11 December 2017

By Bronwen

With the exception of a few Victoria’s Secret models, it’s widely accepted that non-black people shouldn’t say the N word while singing along to a song. This year, a certain lyric in an iconic Christmas song is causing a similar debate. In particular, it’s this verse in ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl that is in the hot seat at the moment:

“You’re a bum

You’re a punk

You’re an old slut on junk

Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed

You scumbag, you maggot

You cheap lousy faggot

Happy Christmas your arse

I pray God it’s our last.”

Can you see the offending word?

A number of people have pointed out that the word ‘faggot’ is a homophobic slur and argue that heterosexual people should not say it while singing the song. Had the song been written now, it wouldn’t have been released with that kind of lyric. Maybe I just didn’t notice it in previous years but I’m quite sure that this year is the first that people have found issue with the song. A solution that some people found is to just say ‘maggot’ twice but the question here is: should we have to? Or is this just another case of people searching for things to be offended over?

Since the song was released in 1987, gay rights have come a long way. If there was something to be insulted over, surely this debate over a 30-year-old song would have happened years ago.

The use of the word faggot in this sense is not aimed at anybody’s sexuality as the song is about a (dysfunctional) heterosexual relationship. Had the female in the song been accusing the male of being secretly gay then maybe there’d be a problem.

The way I see it, as long as you don’t obnoxiously scream the word ‘faggot’ when it comes to that part of the song at your gay cousin during the family Christmas party, there isn’t a problem. The song doesn’t normalise the use of the word or promote its use.

Interestingly, BBC Radio 1 play an edited version in which the words ‘slut’ and ‘faggot’ have been edited out.  As everybody knows the original lyrics, this editing is really just a waste of time and makes out like we’ve all been too ignorant to be offended for the last three decades.


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